In the spring of 2008, during her first Team In Training (TNT) triathlon
season, Molly Frost attended a TNT social event not knowing it would profoundly change her life.
Fast forward two and half years. On August 5, 2010, Molly received a phone call from the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry. She was a potential match for a patient with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Was she still interested in possibly donating?
Despite being completely caught off guard, Molly said yes. In retrospect, she says whether or not she really understood what was going on was debatable at that point, but in her heart she knew she wanted to do it.
Not 48 hours later, she was at a blood bank giving eight vials of blood for the first part of the process – Confirmatory Testing. The cheek swab she did several years back just scratched the surface in terms of the various match points needed for a donation.
Molly passed round one with flying colors. Her tissues were a match for the individual she fondly refers to as “my lady.” All she knew about her lady, was her gender and age.
So about four weeks later she was working with Be The Match to schedule the appointments and next steps, so that the “harvest of her bone marrow” could happen as soon as possible.
“My contact at Be The Match was amazing. Irma was there with me every step of the way – for all the appointments and all the scheduling and coordinating with the hospitals,” said Molly. “I was so blessed to have her as my advocate, because I have never had to talk the medical language before. She navigated our way through all the hospital paperwork and was my voice.”
After passing a day-long physical exam at the end of September and meeting with the Stanford oncologist to talk through the consent forms and the procedure, Molly was ready.
Until this point, Molly had been prepped to give a donation via peripheral blood stem cell pheresis (PBSC), a non-surgical procedure similar to giving platelets. During this process, the donor receives a synthetic drug that boosts stem cell production makes these shy cells widely available in the donor’s bloodstream. Blood is then collected, filtered (stem cells collected) and returned over the course of 4-6 hours and a couple of days.
Not entirely comfortable with donating via PBSC, Molly made the decision that felt right to her – she opted for the harvest to be done via bone marrow surgery. A bit more invasive, this procedure involves bone marrow collection from the pelvic bone. It also meant blood donation (for herself), elective surgery, an overnight hospital stay and some recovery time. But, Molly was up for the challenge.
November 15, 2010, the day of the surgery, came and went. Molly’s precious life-saving stem cells were packed up and sent to her lady. Molly woke up in the hospital surround by friends and family, thankful (not for the first time) for her wonderful support system and full of hope that her lady was equally surrounded with support as her “day one” with a new immune system began.
“My eyes have been opened to the world of advances in medical technology and my perspective has changed to be that of a patient rather than a visitor,” said Molly. “Until now, I have never had to deal with anything in the medical world beyond some minor things here and there, and I cannot tell you what it means not to have to do this on your own.”
Molly’s lady got to go home for Christmas and spend time with her family – time made possible by Molly’s gift of life.
Not everyone can or will get the opportunity to do what Molly did. But there many ways you can bite cancer back and help Bay Area blood cancer patients.
- Join the National Bone Marrow Registry. It only takes a cheek swab and the occasional update of your contact info. Visit www.bethematch.org for details.
- Get your child’s school involved in Pennies For Patients, an in-classroom fundraising program that teaches kids about giving back to their community. Contact Erin Lutsko at Erin.Lutsko@lls.org, 415.625.1126.
- Join Team In Training! Teams are forming now for the upcoming season.
- Participate in LLS’s Cancer Bites campaign. Visit www.lls.org/cancerbites for details.